The best kind of game:
party without a cleric.
Spend my day off hiding from the world & reading Dungeons & Dragons books? Don't mind if I do! elladorian recommended this to me, since she really liked it. & well she should! This is a book absolutely meant for her. This is a book for the intermediate player, for the player who knows the difference between an dwarf & an elf, probably knows the difference between an eladrin & an elf, might know the difference between a demon & a devil, & probably doesn't know the difference between Orcus & Tenebrous. It is a book that will tell you how to optimize without min-maxing, & how exactly you should be convincing your Dungeon Master to use your best abilities for the Skill Challenge. Beginning players too, I might add-- there isn't anything overwhelming here. I'm old hat, but that doesn't mean the book is without useful information for me. Heck, it is worth its weigh in nostalgic artwork alone. While the rest of the DnD line is full of grimacing characters looking "bad ass"-- or "trying to poop" as kingtycoon would say-- this book hearkens back to a time when the interior illustrations had a sense of humor. In fact, the cover, by the Penny Arcade artist, is one of my favorites-- in particular the creepy death dwarf. Nobody gives dwarves enough credit for being awesome. There are also anecdotes from designers, players, & others; sections where they talk about how they play, or about notable characters. My favorite is from the creator of the show Leverage, who describes that show as "a party of 10th level Rogues." Oh man, good for you, I like your show. I didn't know you were part of my tribe!
I took the tests in the book, that tell you what race, or class you might be. First off, potential DMs beware! I tested my Motivation (page 12) & I am Storyteller: 4, Actor: 3, Instigator: 2, & Explorer: 1. That sounds about right-- that was the most useful test, I think. Maybe every player should take it, since it speaks to the expectations of the player rather than the character. It is right in between the P & the C in Player Character. On the quiz about what Class I should play (page 15) I scored about as I expected as well-- Warlock: 8, Rogue: 4, Wizard: 3, Ranger: 3, Paladin: 1, Fighter: 1. Yeah, Warlock is the class for me, no doubt about it. The Rogue & Ranger are there since I like being the striker-- my old Third Edition Scout taught me that. Couple that with the ability to be into creepy magic? That is my turf, my zone. In real life, too! Really the quiz was more about role than class. In the Race poll (page 19) I was Tiefling: 6, Half-Elf: 5, Human: 5, Dragonborn: 1, Eladrin: 1, Dwarf: 1, Halfling: 1. Half-Elf & Human were high because I like versatility, Tiefling was high because I like wickedness. I'll grant that it was accurate; after Tiefling, Half-Elf is my favorite core race. Then there was an Alignment quiz (page 30)-- I scored Unaligned: 3, Evil: 2, Lawful Good: 1, Chaotic Evil: 1. Really because I'm Lawful Evil, remember that?
One of the more interesting points of the book were about playing to expectations, & playing against expectations. How it can be rewarding to have a "strong build"-- that is, a race & stats that bulk up your rolls-- & how it can be just as much fun not to, to go against the grain & play an unexpected combo. This is where the new attribute system comes in, I think. I like that now you can play a wider range of characters without shooting yourself in the foot to pull it off. Besides that, I like it as a worldbuilding option-- "this race is good at being Fighters" is way less meaningful than "this race is good at being Fighters & Clerics." Suddenly I know-- if Dragonborn make good Fighters & Clerics, there are probably lots of those, & if Eladrin make good Rogues & Wizards, they probably favor that, & so forth. The most honest, & strongest part of the book? The chapter on "How to..." which then proceeds to sub-headings like "...Get the Best Initiative," or "...Have the Most Hit Points." Yep, those are great, because that really does speak to the player, to the character. I like having unarmored characters with high Armor Classes. I like it, I just do. Tracey likes having fast characters. toughlad likes to have the character who makes every saving through. Bernie & Gerd hate characters with powers that miss. These are true stories.